Poor air quality conditions in Knoxville cause problems for people with asthma

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KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Knoxville started Wednesday at a Code Red for air quality due to smoke from wildfires, although the haze appeared to lighten up as the day went on. Even if you can’t necessarily see it, many can still smell it and breathe it.

“You almost feel like your lungs are completely closed and you can’t catch anything. When you go into an attack, it’s a pretty scary feeling,” said Timothy Dennis.

He was diagnosed with asthma at just 11. The smog lingering in the air recently has made things more complicated.

“I work in Oak Ridge. I try to avoid the outside because it’s so close to it. It’s super, super smoggy. Can’t even run my air conditioner or heat on the way up there because it comes in the vents,” added Dennis.

He isn’t alone. Others in Knoxville with COPD, asthma or chronic lung diseases are struggling to breathe.

Related: East Tennessee fires cause thick haze, unhealthy air quality

“Air quality tends to vary day to day and even hour to hour of a particular day,” said Dr. James Shamiyeah with UT Medical Center.

He says the hospital’s Pulmonary and Critical Care Center has received a number of calls from patients lately battling breathing problems.

Dr. Shamiyeah adds there are no long-term health implications for healthy people, meaning you cannot be diagnosed with asthma out of the blue.

“But a substantial flare up can mean a major setback for someone who already has a condition,” he said.

There’s no timeline yet on when the smog should drift out of East Tennessee.

“Having strategies, day to day, if you’re susceptible about when to stay inside, when to be outside is pretty smart. Bottom line is that anybody, when they start to feel the effects of this, chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, cough, should get inside. Doesn’t matter who you are,” said Dr. Shamiyeah.

Doctors say it’s important to keep an eye on children because the more energetic outdoor activities, the more likely you are to have trouble catching your breath or cough.

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